Effects of tundra vehicle activity on polar bears ( Ursus maritimus) at Churchill, Manitoba

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Dyck, Markus Guido
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Churchill, Manitoba is world-famous for its polar bear ('Ursus maritimus') viewing activities using tundra vehicles. Churchill is unique in that bears are viewed at close distances relative to any other bear-viewing location. The close proximity of tundra vehicles (TV) and polar bears in the Gordon Point area at Churchill poses a question vital to the bear management and the nature tourism industry: do human activities at Churchill induce behavioural changes in polar bears? Based on the results, the main recommendations were (1) Manitoba Conservation should seek dialogue with stakeholders to develop a protocol for consistent and predictable tundra vehicle and helicopter activities; (2) Manitoba Conservation should encourage more research examining the polar bear viewing industry; (3) viewing distances of at least 20 m should be maintained; (4) tundra vehicle movement around bears should be minimized; (5) passengers on vehicles should avoid noisy behaviour; (6) bears should not be pursued during viewing activities; and (7) the purpose of two Designated Polar Bear Resting Areas in the Gordon Point area should be re-examined. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)